Northern Lights Weed Strain Information & Review

Sophia Delphi July 27, 2022 - 6 min read
Fact Checked
Northern Lights strain

When talk turns to iconic weed strains, Northern Lights (sometimes abbreviated as NL) must be front and center in the discussion. This indica is revered by recreational and medicinal users alike for the powerful euphoria and full-body relaxation it delivers — so powerful high that it is often described with the phrase “two hits and quit.”

Northern Lights has been around and enormously popular for decades; it won its first Cannabis Cup in 1989. It’s believed to be the product of pure Afghan and Thai landrace strains, explaining the potency of its effects. This strain’s aroma and flavor are almost as classic as its high, primarily earth and pine, with some spice and sweetness.

The original Northern Lights was said to be pure indica, but there are now many different phenotypes on the market, most of them almost 100% indica and all of them high in THC content.

Effects and Side Effects

Northern Lights hits hard and doesn’t mess around. Its brain and body highs set in immediately and almost simultaneously.

Let’s start with the head high. It’s euphoric and uplifting, with all worries and cares completely washed away with the first or second toke. The mood elevation allows you to stay focused and perhaps even creative, perfect for reading and binge-watching without negative thoughts or haziness intruding on the enjoyment.

Meanwhile, the body quickly experiences full relaxation, but unlike most indica strains, Northern Lights doesn’t produce a heavy relaxation. Users may find themselves locked to the couch but not because of heavy sedation; the body high is more freeing than weighty, adding to the overall euphoria.

It can take quite some time before a feeling of drowsiness arrives, but sleepiness does eventually set in for many users. That makes Northern Lights a strain best used in the evening rather than during the day.

Cottonmouth and dry eyes are likely when using this strain, but it rarely produces more serious side effects like anxiety, paranoia, or euphoria. Those generally occur only when users are predisposed to those issues and extremely sensitive to THC. The munchies, however, are something that all users should expect.

Positive Effects:

  • Energy: 3/5
  • Creative: 3/5
  • Pain: 5/5
  • Stress: 5/5
  • Sleep: 2/5
  • Mood: 5/5

Negative Effects:

  • Paranoid: 1/5
  • Dry Mouth: 5/5
  • Dry Eyes: 4/5
  • Lethargy: 3/5
  • Cough: 3/5

Bottom Line: Northern Lights is revered for its fully relaxing and euphoric effects, which induce bliss and couch lock, but won’t put most users down for the count for quite a while.

Medical Conditions

The physical effects of Northern Lights make the strain a very popular choice for medical marijuana patients. Many say it helps to ease the chronic pain of conditions and diseases like fibromyalgia, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis, and less serious muscle aches, pains, and spasms. It’s also a common choice for those dealing with migraines, PMS, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Meanwhile, the stress relief and mental relaxation induced by Northern Lights make it a popular strain among patients who suffer from all forms of anxiety, depression, and mental health conditions like OCD. Those troubled by insomnia find that this strain can slowly ease them into drowsiness and make it easier to sleep. Northern Lights is also likely to help people with eating disorders.

Flavor and Aroma

Northern Lights is a pungent weed, with the scents of wood and pine trees mingling with a little bit of sweetness, citrus, and spice. Many have called the strain’s aroma “classic cannabis,” but one thing is certain: the strong smell of Northern Lights makes it virtually impossible to hide what you’re doing.

The flavor of this strain is much like its scent. Expect the smoke to be skunky and thick, with sweet, earthy, and woody notes and a hint of citrus in the aftertaste. However, the exact taste and aroma will depend on which phenotype of Northern Lights you’ve purchased.

Flavor and Aroma Ratings:

  • Earthy: 4/5
  • Citrus: 2/5
  • Fruity: 2/5
  • Spice: 3/5
  • Wood: 4/5

Cannabinoids and Terpenes

The average THC content of Northern Lights is around 18%, not the highest you’ll find but definitely more than respectable — particularly when combined with the powerful indica properties of the strain. The amount of THC in the weed you buy, of course, depends on the phenotype and producer. CBD, CBN, and CBC content is quite low.

There’s a large mix of terpenes found in Northern Lights; the highest levels are of myrcene, phellandrene, caryophyllene, camphene, and pinene. They’re responsible for the pungency, earthy and woodsy scent and flavor of the strain and many of its effects.


The original landrace heritage of Northern Lights, with its roots in Afghan and Thai indica strains, explains its powerful indica properties.

Details on who originally created this strain are somewhat hazy. Some believe the first stable version of Northern Lights was created in Seattle by someone known as “the Indian,” but most credit the well-known cultivator Nevil Schoenmakers for perfecting the strain in the Netherlands and bringing it to market.

As we’ve mentioned, there are a number of phenotypes on the market; Northern Lights #1 and Northern Lights #5 are widely viewed as the best of the bunch. If you buy at a dispensary, your budtender should be able to tell you which variety they carry.

Similar Strains

It’s difficult to find many strains that will compare with the powerful effects of Northern Lights because it may be the best of its kind. Others you can try, though, include Critical Plus, Lavender, Blueberry, Hollywood OG, and Pink Kush.

Northern Lights Strain Review: FAQ

Q: What’s the difference between Northern Lights #1 and Northern Lights #5?
A: That’s a rather complicated question to answer because the origins of this strain remain somewhat cloudy. Here’s the short version: the higher the phenotype number, the higher the amount of THC it usually contains.

Q: What’s the longer answer?
A: OK, we’ll try to make it simple. It seems that the original plants were numbered 1-11, and the Dutch breeder obtained all of them. NL #5 was said to be the best, with NL #1 the second-best; NL #1 was thought to be a true Afghan indica with no Thai lineage. Complicating the story is the fact that the clones were bred numerous times with other strains to create hybrids, so the NL #1 or NL #5 you see for sale (or available at seed banks) aren’t exactly the same as the original phenotypes. Seeds sold by reputable vendors like Sensi Seeds and British Columbia Seed Company are believed to be versions of Northern Lights created by crossing the phenotypes. For example, most experts think Sensi’s NL #5 is a cross of either NL #1 or NL #2 with the original NL #5; NL #1 and #2 were male plants, and NL #5 was female.